Ofcom has outlined plans to increase investment in super-fast broadband by opening up BT’s fibre lines to third party providers. The move will allow the telco’s fibre to be used by operators including Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin Media in a way similar to the opening up of BT’s copper telephone network to rival phone and broadband operators.
The regulator believes that in doing so it can deliver both competition and investment in super-fast broadband in rural and urban areas.
“The development of the UK’s super-fast broadband future is well underway with the roll-out of services in large parts of the country,” said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards. “Ofcom has finalised a clear regulatory framework to promote investment, competition and innovation to enable as many consumers as possible to benefit from these exciting new services”.
With fibre-optic broadband delivering speeds between 50 and 100 Mbps, additional consumer services including broadcast quality video, high definition and 3DTV can be enabled. Cableco Virgin Media already has speeds of 50 Mbps available to 49% of the UK with plans to upgrade speeds to 100 Mbps in the near future. BT has plans to cover 66% of the UK by 2015.
Under the proposals third parties will be given control of BT lines to provide super-fast broadband direct to their customers. In return BT will be able to set the prices of the wholesale product, reflecting the commercial risk, but subject to the rules covering anti-competitive pricing.
In a further initiative, BT will be required to offer communications providers access to its underground ducts and overhead telegraph poles. This will enable companies to rollout their own infrastructure, even in areas where BT has chosen not to develop its own consumer offering.